Why does getting a good night’s rest have to be so complicated? That question has (literally, in some cases) kept me up at night, and if the endless supply of sleep advice online is any indication, I know I’m not alone. It should be as simple as: You feel tired, you go to bed, you pass out, you wake up refreshed. Unfortunately, as I’ve learned from personal experience and editing countless sleep science articles, so many factors can disrupt that process—certain health conditions, technology habits, and caffeine consumption, to name a few.
Your environment can also deeply influence your ability to fall and stay asleep. You’ve probably heard the standard advice to keep your bedroom cool and make it as dark as possible, but there are other ways to prime your space for rest, Anita Yokota, LMFT, therapist-turned-designer and author of Home Therapy, tells SELF. “I always asked clients about their sleep habits as a therapist, but I do the same as an interior designer,” Yokota says. “I want to give people tools so their home can support their mental well-being.”
On that peaceful note, here are a few of Yokota’s top tips for turning your bedroom into a sleep sanctuary:
Tweak your tech habits—even a little.
Devices that emit blue light have been shown to rouse the brain, but if the thought of avoiding your phone or TV altogether before bed stresses you out (another known rest disrupter), Yokota recommends coming up with a plan that’ll help you ease into less screen time—what she calls a “sleep strategy.”
“When I do this with clients, I ask them to define what they need to sleep right now, as well as what could help them move toward better rest in the future,” she says. “For example, if someone swears the Housewives bickering in the background serves as their noise machine, I might suggest investing in a Bluetooth under-pillow speaker (like this one from Amazon) or some comfortable wireless headphones (like these SleepPhones).” Then, they can make a point to turn off the TV every other night, say, and try something more rest-inducing, like a white-noise or meditation app instead, she explains.
Another small change Yokota often recommends: Don’t completely ban your phone initially, but set a goal of leaving it in another room three nights a week. “I love to add hallway docking stations to encourage clients to ditch their phones before they enter the bedroom, in order to stave off late-night doomscrolling or waking up to Instagram before their feet have even hit the floor,” she says. You can also just plug your phone in across the room versus on your nightstand to give yourself some device distance.
By making these small tech tweaks, maybe you’ll soon find yourself looking forward to screen-less nights and incorporating them more often. Either way, the point is to meet yourself where you are. “A sleep strategy isn’t all or nothing,” Yokota says. “It takes us from what isn’t ideal toward what is.”
Don’t underestimate the power of a good mattress, comfy pillows, and dreamy sheets.
“I’ve found that my design clients always seem to know the exact fridge they want, for example, but either don’t know what items they need for their bedroom or are more than happy to ‘make do’ with their old mattress,” Yokota says. The thing is, considering the positive impact quality sleep can have on your mental and physical health, it’s worth investing in your bed if you have the means, she adds.